Rodriguez signing paying off for Chelsea
Pedro Rodriguez was signed by Chelsea to inject some life into the English champions after their lackluster start to the season.
He took 30 minutes to do just that.
The Spain forward scored one goal and set up another in his first half-hour of Premier League football, setting Chelsea on its way to a 3-2 win over West Bromwich Albion and a first victory of its title defense.
“How many top players come to England and don’t perform immediately,” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said of Pedro, who joined for US$33 million from Barcelona. “People ask if he is the right player, can he adapt? ... It’s very nice for him to perform the way he did.”
Crisis averted for Chelsea, which had opened with one point from two games, but there’s still a way to go to catch first-place Manchester City.
City earned its third straight win this season — and a club recordequaling ninth victory in a row — by beating Everton 2-0 thanks to second-half goals by Aleksandar Kolarov and Samir Nasri. With eight goals scored and none conceded, it is an ominous start by a team looking for a third title in five seasons.
“You see a team that are at their very, very best,” Everton manager Roberto Mancini said of City, “when they only need half a chance to hurt you. They are really enjoying their moment.”
Liverpool is the only other team with a 100 percent start, ahead of its match at Arsenal on Monday that wraps up the third round of games.
Watford drew 0-0 with Southampton in Sunday’s other game.
Pedro’s bright display overshadowed another tough afternoon for his new captain, John Terry. A week after getting substituted — for the first time in 177 matches under Mourinho — during a 3-0 loss at Man City, Terry was sent off against West Brom for a professional foul in the 54th minute when his side was 3-1 ahead.
Chelsea conceded almost straight away but held on comfortably at The Hawthorns, restoring some order after drawing 2-2 at home to Swansea and getting overwhelmed by City.
Thibaut Courtois saved James Morrison’s 14th-minute penalty before Pedro scored the opener in the 20th, trading passes with Eden Hazard and sending in a shot that deflected inside the near post.
Ten minutes later, Pedro turned provider by driving in a cross-shot that was bundled in by a sliding Diego Costa at the far post.
West Brom reduced the deficit through Morrison, only for Cesar Azpilicueta to restore Chelsea’s two-goal cushion by racing onto Costa’s lay-off and slotting in a low finish for his first Premier League goal. Spain internationals scored all of the visitors’ goals.
City finished last season with six straight wins, perhaps keeping coach Manuel Pellegrini in a job, and has carried that run into this campaign after spending more than US$150 million this summer.
Raheem Sterling — signed for £49 million (US$76 million) — has added an extra dimension to City’s attack and is providing a different problem for opposition defenses, which is allowing others like David Silva and Yaya Toure to shine.
Silva and Sterling were involved in the build-up to Kolarov’s 60thminute opener, with the left back charging upfield and running onto Sterling pass to beat American goalkeeper Tim Howard at his near post.
Nasri exchanged a one-two with Toure before chipping Howard from close range for the second in the 88th.
“What other teams think about our team is not our problem,” Pellegrini said when asked if City was making a statement to its rivals. “The important thing is to be a consistent team until the end.”
West Brom’s Gareth McAuley watches as Chelsea’s Radamel Falcao, right, takes a shot at the goal during the English Premier League soccer match between West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea at the Hawthorns, West Bromwich, England, Sunday, Aug. 23.